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Picture Book Club #6

Picture Book Club went on tour for the first time in April! We ventured as far as Oxford! Many thanks to Oxford Waterstones in Broad Street for hosting us in their café. Our speakers for the night were James and Lucy Catchpole of the Catchpole Literary Agency and we had a great crowd of attendees eager to meet and exchange gossip with real life literary agents, especially ones that specialise in picture books. It was especially exciting to welcome IRL @ReadItDaddy and @BookLoverJo, two long term Twitter friends, and a posse who are starting a new chapter of PBC in the South West next month!

James took time to explain at the outset that although the agency is currently open for submissions, they really have a full list of authors. As they are a small agency, taking on more authors could have a negative impact on the support that they can provide to their existing clients. Disappointing but understandable news. However, things did improve!

James and Lucy gave us all an insight into how they work and the amount of care and thought put in to editing and getting a publisher pitch right. They really put the work in and this is reflected in their enviable success rate in getting authors and illustrators published. We had an interesting discussion about the amount of ex-advertising folk who go on to ‘redeem their souls’ by becoming successful picture book authors and illustrators. Sadly too late for me to go back and qualify as an art director or copy-writer (lack of talent has nothing to do with it (-;).

Then, excitingly, we were invited to pitch! Bravely, several PBC members stepped up to the plate and shared their latest ideas. James and Lucy gave really helpful, thoughtful feedback on the pitches which I hope will help members on future occasions. I’m looking forward to our first acknowledgement in an actual book! Perhaps in 3 years time, given lead times in children’s publishing!?

The evening was rounded off with a caramel cheesecake brownie swirl referencing Easter, the Catchpole daughter’s first vlog and an obscure 1970’s picture book from my childhood. It had zombie rabbits and that’s really all you need to know!

We will definitely be returning to Oxford!